Sunday, March 11, 2007

DVD Diary - Shut Up & Sing

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The documentary Shut Up & Sing (2006, d. Barbara Kopple & Cecilia Peck) follows the uproar that surrounded the Dixie Chicks after singer Natalie Maines' crack in 2003 that the group was "embarassed" that President Bush was from Texas. Country radio dropped the group's CD - the single was #1 at the time - and former fans turned out to protest at the group's tour stops. (The first stop was in my home of Greenville, SC and my Mom attended the show!)

The timeline of the film jumps between 2003 and the group's 2005 recording of their successful Taking the Long Way album, which included pointed jabs at their critics and won multiple Grammys last month. Maines and bandmates Emily Robison and Martie Maguire all have bustling family lives and are portrayed as just down-to-earth regular gals.

What they don't have is a coherent point of view on Iraq. Maines is barely shown discussing the war after her famous crack on a London stage, and I wanted someone to ask her two questions. Why did a documentary crew happen to be there before the infamous comment, and would she have made the same remark in front of an American audience? While I certainly applaud the group's unapologetic stand, they seem curiously tone deaf about a. why people would be offended and b. being shunned by the insular world of country radio. The entire crisis is presented not in terms of political convictions but in how the Chicks' careers are affected. Shut Up & Sing records a cultural furor, but there's not much left after the surface has been scratched.

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